During the month of August, The Arc of Opportunity has raised its voice. With proposed changes to the Senate Health Care bill, program participants and families alike have come together to make their presence and stories known. For the last couple of months, there has been lots of talk about changes to Medicaid and The Arc of United States sparked a nationwide challenge during the August Senate recess. While senators were back in their local offices The Arc of Opportunity decided that they would join this united fight.
The first portion of this fight was education. The Arc created workshops for Storytelling. These storytelling workshops emphasized the importance of not only telling their story but to tell it effectively. One group was geared towards families and caregivers and the other for persons with disabilities. The groups were educated on Medicaid and the potential effects that it would have on them if these proposed changes occur. They learned that Medicaid, better known as MassHealth, covered a lot of the services that they, and/or their loved ones, receive. At the end of the workshop, each person wrote or drew a picture showing their stories. The attached picture shows a group of active Self-Advocates from The Arc’s day program with their stories. Each person had a different story to tell. Some were scared that they would lose vital residential services. Others talked about how the changes to Enhanced Adult Foster Care have already affected them. During these workshops, you learn that no two stories are the same.
The second portion is going out and telling their stories. It is always better when you can connect a face to a personal experience. One prime example is Alice. Alice is a participant in our Day Hab program. She made multiple phone calls during June and July. In August she attended the first storytelling workshop at The Arc. Alice used the skills she learned to tell her story. Alice was previously in a nursing home and with the help of MassHealth and other supports she is now living with a shared living provider and attends day programming. With her new skills, she was able to share this story with Everett Handford, the Regional Director for Senator Warren and eventually with Senator Warren herself, at a local town hall event. Alice is a just one example of how much this workshop has helped give families and the people we serve the confidence and skills to be more effective self-advocates. Together with our stories, we can make a difference. This has shown to be true with the first Senate Health Care Bill being denied. However, it is important to remember that even though the bill was not passed, it does not mean our fight is over. In fact, it has just begun.